Today marks the last day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This campaign is near and dear to our hearts here at Excelsior Youth Center because sexual violence is a tragedy from which too many of our girls have suffered. Nearly half of the girls here at Excelsior Youth Center have been victims of sexual assault and/or child sexual abuse – every day, we see the long-lasting consequences of these tragedies and know that recovery from this trauma is a long and arduous process.
We’ve found that banding together with other survivors and joining the fight to prevent sexual assault helps our girls process their experiences and begin to overcome these tragedies. So, during the month of April, our staff and girls worked together on a variety of projects to support SAAM and we’d like to share some of those projects with you.
In conjunction with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Excelsior girls wrote love letters to survivors of sexual violence. Many of them wrote declarations of self-love to themselves; others honored loved ones who are survivors of sexual violence; still others wrote love letters to survivors who are strangers. Along with thousands of others, our girls wrote these letters to work together in order to collect uplifting messages for survivors everywhere.
The concept behind the Clothesline Project is simple – let each woman tell her story by using her unique words and/or artwork to decorate a shirt. The shirts are hung on a clothesline to represent the history of women sharing stories over backyard fences while hanging their clothes to dry. This clothesline project serves three primary purposes: it becomes an educational tool for those who view it; a healing tool for survivors who make the shirts; and a visual icon to support those who are still suffering in silence by reminding them that they are not alone.
Denim Day – April 29, 2015
Denim Day is a day in which communities unite to take a stand against sexual violence by wearing jeans. The history of Denim Day begins in 1997 after an 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor in Rome, Italy. The perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to jail, but when he appealed the sentence, the case was overturned. The Head Judge released a statement arguing that since the young girl wore tight jeans, she must have helped the perpetrator remove them, therefore consenting. Enraged by the verdict, the women of the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Parliament building. This was the beginning of what has become a worldwide event and movement to wear jeans as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault.
Our girls designed and decorated a large pledge banner with the words “It’s not your fault. It’s ok to talk about it.” All our girls were encouraged to sign the banner and write an encouraging message or draw a meaningful design in order to pledge their support of the fight against sexual assault.